Round 4: Wests Tigers v Eels preview
The unbeaten Eels look to extend their unbeaten start to the season as they host the Wests Tigers on Easter Monday.
After a convincing win over the Cronulla Sutherland Sharks, the Parramatta Eels are expecting to their fourth successive game to start the season. Currently in second place, the Eels will have the luxury of a returning Ryan Matterson who will face his former club on Easter Monday. Matterson missed the last game with a concussion, but it hardly mattered as the Eels romped the Sharks by 24-points.
It was a dominant performance from the Eels as they held possession for 61 per cent off the time as the accumulated an incredible 2,398 run metres, an incredible 965 more than their opposition. Seven of the Eels forwards surpassed 100 run metres as did all five of their outside backs which included Clint Gutherson running for an incredible 284 run metres.
This has been something that the Eels have excelled in during the first three rounds this season, averaging 1,948 run metres per game, 100 metres higher than the next best Panthers. Matterson's return is another boost for his side's metreage who tallied 117 metres during their Round one clash with Brisbane. As a result, PapaliI moves back to the interchange despite his impressive start to the season with Keegan Hipgrave dropping out of the 17. Mitchell Moses will be on watch during the week after leaving the field with concussion on Saturday night.
Meanwhile, their opponents, the Wests Tigers recorded their first win on Sunday afternoon with a four-point victory of the previously unbeaten Newcastle Knights. It was a great response after their two lacklustre performances over the course of the first two rounds which included a 34-point loss to the Sydney Roosters in Round two. It was surprisingly the first time since 2007 that the club had lost it's opening two games and Michael Maguire will be relieved that the losing streak didn't continue as they face the Eels this week and the South Sydney Rabbitohs in two weeks' time.
The Tigers' two halves, Adam Doueihi and Luke Brooks put in their best performances of the season, both recording a try assist and tallying three and two votes in the Dally M's respectively. More of the same will need to come from these two if they are to come away with any points on Monday afternoon. A big stat for the Tigers was just their eight errors, which came after a combined 24 errors in their opening two games. If they can manage to limit their errors and get their forwards such as Luciano Leilua and Stefano Utoikamanu some space, they could be in for a sniff.
After their morale-boosting weekend, Michael Maguire has named an unchanged line up for the Easter Monday clash.
Last meeting: Round 20 2020 - Wests Tigers 24 Eels 28
Who to watch: It's another interesting battle between the two fullbacks this Monday with the New South Wales Origin representative Clint Gutherson lining up against the 21-year-old Daine Laurie. Gutherson has been ever-so reliable to start the 2021 season and has been influential in their three victories. A try, try assist and 196 run metres per game is what he brings to the table from a numbers point of view, but it is the try saving efforts such as the efforts against Melbourne that really showcase his worth. One of the hardest working fullbacks in the game could have a field day against this inexperienced Tigers outfit.
Daine Laurie, just six games into his NRL career, has been one of the few highlights of the Tigers 2021 season so far. The rookie has averaged 146 run metres whilst breaking an impressive 18 tackles in just three matches. He has yet to cross the try line in his NRL career but did provide his side with a try assist in their hard-fought victory on Sunday afternoon. He's got a tough task ahead of him, organising the Tigers' defence against a rampant Eels forward park but the youngster won't shy away from the challenge.
The favourite: The Eels enter this match as the favourites after their impressive start to the season. Also working in their favour is their recent history against the Tigers, which has them winning seven of the last eight encounters against the joint venture. This exact fixture in 2018 is the last time the Tigers came away with the two-points against the Eels.
My tip: The Tigers are going to have a tough afternoon trying to contain this rampant Eels side. If they manage to play similarly to the way they did on Sunday, they could compete with the Eels for parts of the game. But it's their lack of ability when it comes to competition for the full 80 minutes that will most likely cost them on Monday as it did against the Raiders. The Eels should be too strong to stop. Parramatta by 10.